State v. Griffin

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtSULLIVAN; FINE
Citation183 Wis.2d 327,515 N.W.2d 535
Decision Date29 March 1994
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Johnny B. GRIFFIN, Defendant-Appellant. d 92-2926-CR.

Page 535

515 N.W.2d 535
183 Wis.2d 327
STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Johnny B. GRIFFIN, Defendant-Appellant. d
92-2926-CR.
Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.
Submitted on Briefs Dec. 15, 1993.
Opinion Released March 29, 1994.
Opinion Filed March 29, 1994.

Before SULLIVAN, FINE and CANE, JJ.

[183 Wis.2d 329] SULLIVAN, Judge.

The issue in this case is whether the absence of a registration plate, and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from that fact, constitutes reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify an investigatory stop of a motor vehicle. We hold that such a stop is valid.

Johnny B. Griffin appeals from a judgment of conviction for felon in possession of a firearm, § 941.29(2), STATS. Griffin argues that the trial court erroneously denied his motion to suppress evidence of the firearm that was found in his vehicle during a traffic stop and subsequent arrest. 1 Griffin asserts that the initial investigatory stop, based solely upon the fact that Griffin's vehicle bore "license applied for" plates, was not justified by reasonable suspicion. We conclude that the police officer's investigatory stop of Griffin was lawful. Accordingly, we affirm. 2

The facts are undisputed. City of Milwaukee Police Officer Mark Roots and his partner observed a Dodge Caravan operating in the city on March 20, 1991, about 7:25 a.m. Officer Roots testified as to his sole justification for the stop: "[W]e stopped that vehicle due to the fact that the vehicle did not have registration plates at that time." Instead of registration plates, the van bore [183 Wis.2d 330] a sign that read, "license applied for" and contained the name of a car dealer--Ernie von Schledorn, Ltd.

After stopping the vehicle, Officer Roots obtained Griffin's operator's license and, in response to the officer's inquiry about the plates, Griffin produced his purchase contract and other sales papers including von Schledorn's application for registration. Griffin had purchased the van from von

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Schledorn on March 14, 1991, six days before the stop.

Officer Roots ran a check on Griffin's operator's license and the van's identification number. He learned that the operator's license was issued to Griffin and that the vehicle was registered to him. The officer also learned that two warrants were outstanding naming Griffin, one of which was an unsatisfied commitment for operating an unregistered vehicle and the other was a state warrant for operating a vehicle while the operator's license was suspended. At this point Officer Roots arrested Griffin. A search of the van revealed a .32-caliber handgun in a pouch on the back of the passenger's bucket seat.

The stopping of a motor vehicle is a seizure, which triggers Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. State v. Guzy, 139 Wis.2d 663, 675, 407 N.W.2d 548, 554 (1987). 3 "Law enforcement officers may only infringe on the individual's interest to be free of a stop and detention if they have a suspicion grounded in specific, articulable facts and reasonable inferences from those facts, that the [183 Wis.2d 331] individual has committed a crime." Id. 4 The reasonableness of a stop depends upon the facts and circumstances of the situation. Id. at 679, 407 N.W.2d at 555. Where the facts are undisputed, the question of whether a stop was valid is a question of law that this court reviews without deference to the trial court's decision. See State v. Jackson, 147 Wis.2d 824, 829, 434 N.W.2d 386, 388 (1989).

The question on appeal is whether the presence of a "license applied for" sign, rather than registration plates, and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from that fact, are sufficient to justify the stop of a motor vehicle. Griffin argues that his stop was unlawful because Officer Roots and his partner had no specific or articulable facts, or rational inferences from those facts, sufficient to warrant the intrusion. Officer Roots testified that his reason for stopping Griffin was the lack of registration plates on his van.

Under Wisconsin law, it is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on a highway unless the vehicle either is registered or a complete application for registration accompanied by the required fee has been delivered or mailed to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Section 341.04(1), STATS. Once the DOT issues registration plates for the...

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43 practice notes
  • State v. Williams, No. 96-1821-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 27, 1999
    ...that criminal activity might be afoot. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). ¶84 In State v. Griffin, 183 Wis.2d 327, 329, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct.App.1994), review denied, 520 N.W.2d 88 (1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 950, 115 S.Ct. 363, 130 L.Ed.2d 316 (1994), the......
  • State v. Williams, No. 96-1821-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • March 13, 2001
    ...that could be drawn, the officers have the right to temporarily detain the individual for the purpose of inquiry. State v. Griffin, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 333, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994) (quoting State v. Anderson, 155 Wis. 2d 77, 84, 454 N.W.2d 763 [10] ¶ 47. In Florida v. J.L., the Supreme ......
  • County of Jefferson v. Renz, No. 97-3512.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • December 22, 1999
    ...commit a crime, Wis. Stat. 968.24,11 or reasonably suspects that a person is violating the non-criminal traffic laws, State v. Griffin, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 333-34, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994). After stopping the car and contacting the driver, the officer's observations of the driver may cau......
  • State v. Fischer, No. 2007AP1898-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 2, 2010
    ...commit a crime, Wis. Stat. [§] 968.24, or reasonably suspects that a person is violating the non-criminal traffic laws, State v. Griffin, 183 Wis.2d 327, 333-34, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct.App.1994). After stopping the car and contacting the driver, the officer's observations of the driver may caus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • State v. Williams, No. 96-1821-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 27, 1999
    ...that criminal activity might be afoot. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). ¶84 In State v. Griffin, 183 Wis.2d 327, 329, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct.App.1994), review denied, 520 N.W.2d 88 (1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 950, 115 S.Ct. 363, 130 L.Ed.2d 316 (1994), the......
  • State v. Williams, No. 96-1821-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • March 13, 2001
    ...that could be drawn, the officers have the right to temporarily detain the individual for the purpose of inquiry. State v. Griffin, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 333, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994) (quoting State v. Anderson, 155 Wis. 2d 77, 84, 454 N.W.2d 763 [10] ¶ 47. In Florida v. J.L., the Supreme ......
  • County of Jefferson v. Renz, No. 97-3512.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • December 22, 1999
    ...commit a crime, Wis. Stat. 968.24,11 or reasonably suspects that a person is violating the non-criminal traffic laws, State v. Griffin, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 333-34, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994). After stopping the car and contacting the driver, the officer's observations of the driver may cau......
  • State v. Fischer, No. 2007AP1898-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 2, 2010
    ...commit a crime, Wis. Stat. [§] 968.24, or reasonably suspects that a person is violating the non-criminal traffic laws, State v. Griffin, 183 Wis.2d 327, 333-34, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct.App.1994). After stopping the car and contacting the driver, the officer's observations of the driver may caus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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